The word “episcopal” refers to governance by bishops. The historic episcopate (bishops) continues the work of the apostles of Jesus: guarding the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church, and ordaining men and women to continue Christ’s ministry. An Episcopalian is a person who belongs to The Episcopal Church, which encompasses churches in the United States and 16 countries. The Episcopal Church is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion—a fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.
Episcopalians believe that
...the Holy Scriptures are the revealed word of God, which is to be interpreted by the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
...the Nicene Creed is the basic statement of our belief about God.
...the two great Sacraments given by Christ to the Church are Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
...the teachings and beliefs of the Episcopal Church are articulated in an “Outline of the Faith” in our Book of Common Prayer
The Episcopal Church wholeheartedly believes that, whether or not we agree on a particular topic, we all are beloved by God. Everyone is welcome, as we are companions in holy transformation.
Historically, bishops oversee the Church in particular geographic areas, known as dioceses. St. Francis Church is a parish in the Diocese of North Carolina, which is overseen by our Diocesan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Samuel S. Rodman, and our Suffragan Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple (pictured right).
Each bishop and diocese, operating through a local annual council, determine the character of life and work in that diocese within a set of general decisions made by a triennial General Convention of The Episcopal Church. These decisions are formalized as canons, or rules that govern. Each diocese elects and sends clergy and lay representatives to the General Convention. The annual Convention of the Diocese of North Carolina takes place each fall.
The Episcopal Church celebrates diversity of people and worship styles, yet all worship follows the form set out in the Book of Common Prayer. We are known for our engaging and beautiful worship services and for our work in our communities promoting justice and peace. For those who have grown up Roman Catholic, the principle worship service, known as the Mass, Eucharist, or Holy Communion, will be familiar. For those of reformed tradition or those with no religious tradition, you will find a church that respects its tradition and maintains a sense of awe, wonder, and mystery.
We strive to live by the example of Jesus Christ, welcoming the stranger and the outcast, helping our neighbors, and offering love and forgiveness. While the Anglican Communion worldwide has more than 70 million members, the Episcopal Church has around 2 million members in roughly 7,000 communities of worship. Within the Diocese of North Carolina, there are more than 50,000 members spread over 120 communities of worship.
In the Episcopal Church, we are called to live out our faith daily, whether we are at home, school, work, or recreation. The cornerstones of our faith are Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.
Scripture is the word of God contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The 39 books of the Old Testament contain the story of God’s love from the time of creation to the birth of his son, Jesus Christ. The books contain God’s laws as He gave them to the Hebrew people.
The New Testament contains Christ’s teachings, the accounts of his life as told by his followers, and the beginning of his Church. It is written in 27 books. Within an Episcopal worship service, Scripture is read in the lessons, the Gospel (the teachings of Jesus), the Psalms (poems from the Old Testament) and other prayers.
We are not Christians in isolation but are part of a living faith that spans over millenia. Tradition is the embodiment of our experience as Christians throughout the centuries. The heart of our tradition is expressed through the Bible, the Creeds (statements of faith, written in the first centuries of the Church’s existence), the Sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, and the ordained ministry passed on by Christ to his Church.
Our particular tradition is inherited from the Church of England and is marked by a synthesis of both Protestant and Catholic thought that reflects and respects the comprehensiveness in pursuit of shared truth.
Our tradition is diverse and expressed with and by many voices, among which are a variety of worship styles, languages, cultures, and musical expressions. We seek to value the life and story each person brings to the community of faith. As in a multi-textured tapestry, each person’s offering is woven into the life of the whole, making it stronger and more beautiful.
Each one of us, with God’s help, makes a decision about how we use tradition and Scripture in our lives. A relationship with God allows us to realize and celebrate our lives to the fullest. The gift of reason, as a complement to Scripture and tradition, leads our practical search for answers to our own questions and in our life journeys. We believe that active participation in a community of faith strengthens us to carry our faith into the world. Weaving Scripture, tradition, and reason together, we strengthen our faith and grow as children of God.
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